Two years ago, Olympus finally kept the long-broken promise of taking advantage of a digital SLR’s sub-frame sensor and sticking it in a small camera. This was June, 2009 and the camera was the E-PL1. Almost immediately after, Panasonic brought a similar model, the GF1, to market. Now, 2 years and several cameras later, Panasonic has brought its newest big sensor, small camera to the market in the GF3.
So, what does the new model have over its predecessors?
First off, the GF3 is small, really small, weighing in at a mere 7.8 ounces and being about the physical size of a smart phone without a lens mounted. When compared to its predecessor, the GF2, the GF3 is about 16% smaller and lighter. Unfortunately, beyond some very obvious size reduction, there is little ground-breaking about the GF3 as it is, more than anything else, a re-warmed GF2.
To start with, the GF3 uses the same sensor as seen in its predecessor. Today, with camera makers again making great strides in image quality despite megapixel increases, the old 2010 sensor will probably soon look quite dated when shot against the new generation of chips undoubtedly right around the corner.
On the good side, the GF3 does get a new processor, which is meant to deliver faster AF.
As for the rest of the “improvements,” they’re mostly fluff. To start with, the GF3 now has Olympus-esque picture effects, aka art filters that can be enabled for stills or video. Another not so vital improvement is a touch-capable rear LCD screen that allows for some basic operations to be done with a finger rather than buttons. Here, we should applaud Panasonic for keeping the buttons more than anything else! Another change: a streamlined body that is far more reminiscent of a P&S camera rather than a mirrorless compact. In addition, there are even more new shooting modes from which to choose, which all the more can serve as a speed bump for serious shooters and as a point of confusion for beginners.
Want to buy? The Panasonic GF3 will be available starting in July for $699.99 when bundled with a 14mm kit lens and in August for $599.99 when coupled with a 14-42mm zoom. Want to but locally? Well, Cleveland-based Dodd Camera is a Panasonic dealer and should be stocking the GF3 when it arrives. Really, really want a GF3? Pre-order yours now to guarantee yourself a spot near the front of the line once they ship.
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